Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 162, March 2013 )
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The Pope has resigned his position. That's not everyday news. In fact it hasn't occurred for a while—600 years.
He wrote that he doesn't feel he has the physical capability of carrying on his stewardship in the manner required for the church and its parishioners. He watched his predecessor decline, yet hold on until death, and he decided it was better for everyone that he allow someone else to continue.
You don't have to be Catholic or even religious to appreciate the character represented in that decision.
I always admired Sandy Koufax, the great Dodger pitcher (and, I believe, the greatest pitcher in history), who left at the top of his game. His arm was injured but he could still win easily (he was 27-9 with an earned run average of 1.79 in his final year, the best in baseball). But he decided that he could live a wonderful life away from the game.
Sinatra, perhaps the greatest influence on American music in the 20th Century (you could only put Bing Crosby, Elvis, and the Beatles anywhere close to him) stayed at the fair much too long. For the last ten years of his life—he performed until the end—people merely came to see him as an icon not a talent, because his voice was long gone. I had seen him before and after several times, and I wished he would have stopped while on top, which for him was well into his 60s.
Some people lead lives full of diversity and richness, and they can leave a pursuit or occupation or avocation when they tire of it or no longer can engage at their prior standards. There are other things they can do. But some people hang on by the talons, refusing to jettison memories of the limelight, clinging to past celebrity. They have no other life, not other prospects, no other confidence.
All of us need to think about a full life. Children grow, pets pass away, distant lands may not be revisited, abilities change or diminish. But there is always another door, another light, another opportunity to move toward.
If, that is, we don’t cling, scratch, and claw trying to hold on to the past. Because you can't reach out unless you let go.
This Pope has set a fine example. I wish him Godspeed.
The human condition: Cupidity
There is a find old Middle English root that has evolved into this deceptive word: cupidity. One may casually glance and believe that amore flows here, just as one may consider "meretricious" and believe it implies earned accomplishment. (It means "of or relating to a prostitute.")
Cupidity is about greed. Greed is the pursuit of riches and power. But we have to add something: It's the SELFISH pursuit, which means to me that it is usually at the expense of other people. We all compete to certain extents in life—for promotions, assignments, tickets to events, even lotteries. Athletics are fascinating because we can watch others compete. I'm convinced that my track experience in school, win or lose, helped build my character. (This is why offering school kids awards for just showing up to "build their esteem" seldom does, because the real world doesn't operate that way.)
We have a right to love those who compete honestly and win and detest those who compete dishonestly, whether they win or lose. Bernie Madoff "won" at the expense of others. So did Lance Armstrong. "Victimless crime" has always sounded like an oxymoron to me.
While I'm not moved to call the police or throw a rock, I pity the poor souls who cut a line because A) they're too narcissistic to stand in it, and B) they're too self-absorbed to believe others matter. There are people all over the Internet self-aggrandizing at the expense of others, often through unfair criticism of their work or outright lies. If you steal your cable service and brag about it, am I supposed to think I can believe whatever else you claim?
I've always believed in an Ayn Randian philosophy of helping yourself first so that you can then help others. That's why the airlines tell you to place your own oxygen mask on first. That's why I can do so much pro bono work—because I make sure my business is so successful. But I also try to differentiate between healthy selfishness and cupidity.
I have to admit that I like winning. But I don't need it so much that I have to cheat to do it. We all seek to arrive at our goals. But no one likes an arriviste.
Subject: Dramatic Growth Opportunities from Alan Weiss
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I was at my favorite restaurant, where I'm treated like a prince. I had taken a client to dinner. One of the managers brought my coat, and I pointed out it wasn't mine. He tried to assure me it was, and begged me to try it on. I told him it was not my coat, and I put it on to humor him. In doing so, I stuck my hand in the pocket and found a note, which I opened to show him that it was someone else's coat.
The handwriting was mine. I had thought I had worn a different coat, and had forgotten about this one. Now, when we visit once or twice a week, I'm always asked if I'll be able to recognize my coat. The hostess discreetly lowers her eyes.
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